Preparing for Swine Flu Vaccines
"Swine Flu," also known as the H1N1 virus, is actually a mixture of human, swine and avian influenza strains, and has recently been gripping the attention of the nation and infecting people around the globe.
Symptoms of H1N1 2009 flu virus infection in people are similar to the seasonal influenza that infects people every winter. They include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.
Illness from H1N1 influenza has ranged from moderate to severe, and though hospitalizations and death from this virus have occurred, most people who have been sick have recovered without needing medical treatment.
Controversially, the US government and World Health Organization (WHO) are working to attain and distribute a flu vaccine for H1N1 influenza infections this fall and winter.
Vaccines are drugs sold to people under the premise they help build immunity to potentially harmful organisms that cause illness and disease. Vaccines generally contain dead or attenuated (watered down) versions of the virus or disease, in a cocktail of various other microorganisms and chemicals that appear questionable at best.
One of the most alarming aspects of vaccines that contain weak but alive viruses, when introduced into the right conditions, like a weakened immune system (and with American diets, whose immune system is functioning at full capacity?), the virus can actually regain its strength and infect the body it purportedly is there to protect.
Although the H1N1 vaccine is yet in experimental stages, the US government would like everyone to get vaccinated, and the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) has given drug manufacturers the go ahead to start bottling and ready them for shipping.
The Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) provision of 2004 allows the FDA to approve unlicensed vaccines and drugs whenever Congress declares a "public health emergency," so even though the long-term effects of the H1N1 vaccine have not been tested, it is entirely legal to administer this vaccine to the people.
Remember that "legal" does not necessarily equal "safe." Though these new vaccines are circumventing normal testing procedures, we can evaluate our present knowledge about vaccines to determine if they are safe enough for us.
The H1N1 vaccine may include oil-in-water adjuvants, which are not currently licensed for use in the United States, but also given a pass under the EUA.
Adjuvants are added to vaccines to turbo-charge the immune response to the vaccination, and cause the immune system to overreact to the introduction of the organism being vaccinated against.
Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline are both using the adjuvant squalene in their vaccines. Squalene, a molecule found in olive oil that is recognized by your immune system as an oil molecule native to your body, is found throughout your nervous system and brain and is beneficial to your health.
However, when injected, squalene enters the body through an abnormal route, which incites your immune system to attack all of the squalene in your body, not just the adjuvant. Injected squalene from anthrax vaccines (the same type that Novartis will be using this fall) has been linked to Gulf War Syndrome in soldiers, and the symptoms range from rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and chronic headaches, seizures, memory loss, multiple sclerosis, chronic diarrhea and many other painful conditions.
The vaccines will also contain Thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative that has been associated with brain and immune dysfunction including autism, and is currently banned for use in Russia, Denmark, Austria, Japan, Great Britain, Sweden, Norway and Finland.
According to the FDA, candidate swine flu vaccines will be tested for one to three weeks on a few hundred children and adults before being released for public use this fall. Under the EUA, there is liability protection for vaccine makers when an experimental vaccine is released for public use under a Congress-declared public health emergency.
Interestingly, many scientists who helped to develop the vaccine and most health care professionals are saying they won't take the H1N1 influenza vaccine because of potential health problems the vaccine may cause, and the lack of research about long term health risks.
If you are debating getting the H1N1 vaccination for yourself or your child, there are several questions to ask yourself. Just like an optional surgery you might consider for preventative medical care, you should investigate and research the procedure, and decide if the benefits outweigh the risks.
Do you want to be vaccinated? Do you want your children vaccinated? What are the states laws regarding mandatory vaccination, vaccination to attend school, isolation and quarantine of sick citizens? Some states have exemptions to mandatory vaccination for school children on medical, religious or philosophical grounds.
In the child's school, are there days when all of the children will receive vaccinations, and if so, do you want your child to participate? If not, should you notify the principle, keep the child home during those days, and/or put a note in the backpack stating that you do not want the child vaccinated? If they do get the vaccination, ask the school to have the name of the drug company and their phone number added to your child's medical record.
Can your state government force you to get vaccinated? If so, and you refuse, will they quarantine you and your family, or isolate you from the outside world? The laws change from state to state, so knowing your state's law ahead of time is important.
What if you do become ill and isolate yourself from the outside world, do you have stores of food, water, vitamins and other essentials, or someone who can bring these things to you? If you are quarantined by the government, do you have a bag packed and ready with medical documents and other important information?
This may sound scary but thinking these things through when you are healthy and functioning is the best time to make serious health decisions for you and your family. Whether or not you choose to receive the vaccine, there are a few things you can do to avoid illness from all flu strains this winter (remember, seasonal flu makes people sick too, and kills on average about 30,000 people a year).
A good motto for dealing with impending H1N1 virus outbreaks and the seasonal flu this fall and winter is Be prepared, not scared. Having a healthy immune system is an invaluable tool to prevent infection and illness.
Eliminate sugar and processed foods from your diet whenever possible. Sugar consumption has an immediate, debilitating effect on your immune system.
Eat a healthy diet. Avoid eating carbohydrates and proteins together, instead pair each with green vegetables for optimal digestion that will enhance your immune system function.
Exercise. Your immune system needs good circulation for optimal performance.
Optimize your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency is the likely cause of seasonal flu viruses, and an optimal level of vitamin D will help you fight infections of all kinds. Get 15 minutes of pure sunlight each day or take a high-quality supplement.
Get plenty of good quality sleep. Pick a bed time, and stick to it.
Deal with stress effectively. If you are overwhelmed with stress, your body will have much fewer resources to fight off infection.
Drink liquids, especially water. Make sure you are drinking water free of chemicals such as arsenic, chlorine, mercury and fluoride, all harmful chemicals found in public water supplies.
Wash your hands with a non-antimicrobial soap. Avoid touching your nose and mouth. Cover your cough.
Common sense goes a long way in preventing and treating illness, so when dealing with the flu this winter, ask for the facts and stay prepared, not scared!